BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
A KWEKWE magistrate and clerk of court have been arrested on a charge of criminal abuse of office for allegedly facilitating the release of a stolen vehicle to controversial businessman Shepherd Tundiya.
Magistrate Story Rushambwa (48) and clerk of court Bright Mpiyabo (45) yesterday appeared before Harare regional magistrate Bianca Makwande, who granted them $2 000 bail each.
Allegations are that sometime in September 2018, a Mercedes-Benz vehicle was impounded by CID Kwekwe from Tundiya as suspected stolen property. The vehicle was allegedly stolen from South Africa and smuggled into Zimbabwe.
It was then handed over to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) for further management pending finalisation of investigations by the South Africa Police Service and possible settling of duty in terms of the Customs and Excise Act.
It is the State’s case that on December 9 last year, Tundiya made an ex-parte application seeking the release of the motor vehicle to him.
On the same day, Rushambwa presided over the matter and granted an order that the vehicle be released unconditionally to Tundiya.
It is alleged the order issued by Rushambwa was prejudicial to Zimra and the other respondents, thereby showing favour to Tundiya and disfavour to Zimra and CID Kwekwe.
The State alleges the motor vehicle can no longer be located as a result of the release.
It is also alleged that sometime in October last year, a Toyota Hilux vehicle was impounded by the police anti-corruption unit from John Mapurazi.
The vehicle was taken as an exhibit in a case of fraud in Bulawayo after it was fraudulently imported into the country.
The State alleges the Toyota Hilux vehicle was then handed over to Zimra for customs management until finalisation of trial.
It is alleged on December 27 last year, Mapurazi made an ex-parte application seeking the release of the vehicle to him.
The accused magistrate is said to have connived with Mpiyabo to withhold the record on December 31 until he arrived at court to deal with the application despite being on leave.
The State alleges Mpiyabo then placed the record before Rushambwa to preside over the matter well knowing he was on leave.
Rushambwa presided over the application in the absence of Mapurazi, who was now being represented by Tundiya, who is not a lawyer, and went on to grant the order for the release of the motor vehicle to Mapurazi.
It is alleged the vehicle remained an exhibit in a criminal trial at Bulawayo Magistrates Court and in breach of import regulations of Zimbabwe.
The motor vehicle can no longer be located and is required in a criminal trial as an exhibit in February 2020.
The prosecution alleges that as a result, the State was prejudiced of revenue in the form of customs duty and a possible loss of the State’s case.